Hard to tell if Pirates are for real

PITTSBURGH — So how good are the Pirates? Just past the quarter pole of the season, they’re good enough to hang with the four-team cluster at or near the top of the standings in the National League Central.

Yes, they’ve fattened up on bad teams. They’re a combined 14-3 against the White Sox, Reds, Tigers and Marlins. But they’re also 3-0 against the Cardinals and 2-1 each against the Cubs and Brewers.

They don’t have an obvious big thumper in the middle of the lineup, but Josh Bell has the potential to fill that role.

Starting pitching is deep, but too many of them have the same profile — long on potential, short on experience and accomplishment. Jameson Taillon still has the ability to step up and take the No. 1 spot. Will he?

The bullpen is anchored by Felipe Vazquez, but bridging the gap from starter to closer is still somewhat dicey despite recent good work by Edgar Santana and Richard Rodriguez.

The Cubs have the most talent and have the ability to break away from the pack. They did that last year. They were five and a half games out of first place in the middle of July, then wound up winning the division by a five and a half games.

There’s a long way to go and too many developments that will influence what might happen. Injuries are always a factor. So are trades, whether they’re made by the Pirates or their direct competitors.

It’s not uncommon for a player to have two different seasons in one. Last year Corey Dickerson hit .312 in the first half of the season with a .903 OPS. Those numbers fell to .241 and .690 in the second half.

So the real answer to how good the Pirates are is one you’ll never get on talk radio:

It’s still too early to tell.

Double talk

When Andrew McCutchen came to town with the San Francisco Giants, he said that he would continue to live in Pittsburgh.

His exact words:

“I said a long time ago that this is my home. My wife and I got married and made that decision along time ago. This is where we’re going to live, regardless of baseball. This is where our house is, this is where we’re going to stay in the offseason.

“That’s not going to change. We love it here. My wife is from DuBois, so she still has all her family here and friends. We love our house, so nothing is going to change there.”

That’s certainly a glowing endorsement. After all, there are more pleasant places to live in December and January, and multi-millionaires can pretty much choose where they want to live.

But a few days before McCutchen’s return to Philadelphia, Rob Biertempfel interviewed him for The Athletic website.

He asked McCutchen is he considered himself a “yinzer.” When McCutchen appeared not to know what that meant, Biertempfel said, “You know, a Pittsburgher.”

McCutchen’s exact words:

“I don’t know if I ever thought of myself as a yinzer. My roots are in Florida. My home is Fort Meade. That’s where I grew up and that’s what I’m always going to be. I’m a Florida boy from the beginning to the end. If you’re there long enough, you start to feel and people think you’re from there. I played there and I love it, but I’m not from Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania.”

So dual citizenship, maybe?

Special request

Jose Canseco was among 37 players signing autographs at a show in Monroeville over the weekend.

There were different prices for different items: baseballs, cards, photos, etc.

Wonder if anyone brought a prescription bottle for him to sign?

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com